Asia-Pacific countries finalize first regional agreement to enable cross-border electronic trade at UN forum
Bangkok (ESCAP News) -- An unprecedented regional treaty that will cut trade time and costs in the Asia-Pacific region was finalized at a United Nations led forum in Bangkok this week.
The agreement, drafted by working groups bringing together 27 member states of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), will result in long-term benefits for the region by promoting cross-border paperless trade to make international trade more efficient and transparent, while improving regulatory compliance.
This regional agreement adopted by ESCAP’s Interim Intergovernmental Steering Group on Cross-Border Paperless Trade is the first of its kind to focus on implementing advanced trade facilitation measures, particularly to achieve paperless trade across borders. The agreement will also contribute to regional economic cooperation and integration and also enhance economic competitiveness of the region as a whole by providing momentum for member states to implement advanced trade facilitation measures, particularly paperless systems such as a Single Window, in connection with the implementation the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
ESCAP research indicates that region-wide implementation of cross border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific could lead to export gains of US $257 billion annually. Even partial implementation of cross-border paperless trade measures could lead to an export increase of US$ 36 billion annually, and the time required to export could decrease by as much as 44 per cent and reduce costs by up to 31 per cent.
The United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “This regional agreement is a unique and innovative intergovernmental framework for crossborder paperless trade facilitation. The regional treaty text is both ambitious and pragmatic, so that as many member states as possible can join and benefit from it, regardless of their current level of paperless trade development.”
With its specific focus on enabling electronic trade data and document exchange, this regional framework agreement is very much complementary tothe WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement adopted 2 years ago.
The region has been a leader in trade facilitation and paperless trade innovation for the last two decades. Economic gains from implementing paperless trade systems have been significant. For example, after introducing the electronic single window in Singapore, the time to process trade documents was reduced from 4 days to 15 minutes. Many other countries in the region have also been moving towards a paperless trade environment.
This agreement will facilitate the deepening of paperless trade in Asia-Pacific.
The now finalized treaty text will be submitted for consideration at the 72nd session of the Commission in May, and is expected to be open for signature and ratification by Asia-Pacific member States later this year.
The Interim Intergovernmental Steering Group on Cross-Border Paperless Trade was established in 2015. It is made up of more than 40 officials and experts from over 25 ESCAP member States, including China, Russian Federation and Republic of Korea.